In review: The two-party system of DLSU student politics

The two-party system of DLSU student politics has been present since the rebirth of student politics in the 19080s. The two prevailing political parties in DLSU, Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), once again went head to head last October in vying for 90 positions in the University Student Government (USG) during this year’s Special Elections.

This year also marks the 30 years of existence of the two political parties in DLSU, Santugon and Tapat. In commemoration of both parties’ anniversaries, The LaSallian presents a brief background of the roots of Santugon and Tapat, as well as a comprehensive look into the two-party system within the University’s changing landscape of student politics.


Rebirth after the martial law

The year 1982 marked the rebirth of the Student Council (SC) in DLSU. Student apathy was very prevalent during this time, largely due in part to years and years of martial law mentality within the student body. During this time, the two political parties which prevailed were SWAT and SAMAHAN. The main problem of this version of the SC was the rivalry between the Council of Student Organizations and what was then called the Council of Representatives.

The political parties in the year that followed, 1983, were Sikap and Student’s Party (SP). After some candidates of Sikap failed to meet the Commission on Election’s requirements (nullifying the name of Sikap and listed their eligible candidates to be “independents”), the whole party decided to withdraw en masse and called for a boycott of the elections. The voter turnout for that year’s elections was still considerably better than the previous year’s two-party election, although the candidates from SP were pitted against “abstain”.

The following year, at the height of rallies and protests against the Marcos administration following the assassination of Benigno Aquino Jr., the SC of 1983 was credited to have fuelled Lasallian interest in national issues. While the SC was able to organize different socio-civic fora, increase rally participation, and win the support of the administration, it was overshadowed by more militant groups within the University, such as the La Salle Democratic Alliance (LSDA, later on called La Salle Students for Democratic Action). The LSDA was said to have outran the SC with bigger protest movements and mass actions.


Controversies of 1984

The SC elections of 1984, in which 59.69 percent of the student body voted, saw the militant SAMBISIG win over the moderate SANDIGAN. Forerunners of political party SAMBISIG believed in a more activist leadership, growing from frustration due to what the party saw as apathy of students to sensitive national issues. Meanwhile, opposing party SANDIGAN was seen as preservers of the status quo.

The year 1984 was highly controversial. On top of issues arising from the newly implemented trimestral system, during that year the administration employed a 20 percent tuition fee hike for freshmen, and 15 percent for upperclassmen — a move which sparked weekly mass actions staged by the student body.

Perhaps one of the biggest mass actions during this time was during the year of the October 10 protest, where LSDA asked the support of over 100 students to barricade University entrances to express disapproval for the rapid commercialization of education and a looming tuition fee hike. The SC allegedly handled the issues clumsily through “questionable democratic processes” which led to the impeachment of the SC’s Treasurer and consequent resignation of the President and Vice President for Operations.

“The militant moves of the SC were all good for the social consciousness of the La Sallites, but very harmful to the internal management of the SC,” reported The LaSallian during its Special ’85 SC Election Issue.


The humble beginnings of PANUDLA and Lakas Lasalista

From LSDA, the umbrella group of nationalist movements on campus, sprang the Party of Nationalist, United, Democratic Lasallites (PANUDLA) in 1985. PANUDLA was established to fight for nationalist, scientific, and mass-oriented education. Members of PANUDLA came from LSDA, one of the prominent militant and political groups on campus then.

The word panudla means arrow in Filipino. “We believe we are targeting for something,” expressed PANUDLA’s Jet Guerrero in an interview with The LaSallian in 1985. Among the visions of party are advancing the interests of the students, overhauling the bureaucratic system of the SC, and uniting with other sectors of the society in the struggle for genuine service, freedom, and democracy.

Meanwhile, Lakas Lasalista championed an academic community that develops citizens guided by democratic principles and Filipino, humanitarian, and spiritual values. As Pepot Miñana, the party’s standard bearer in the 1985 SC elections, told The LaSallian then, the main difference between PANUDLA and Lakas Lasalista is that the latter aligned their actions to Christian values.

Lakas Lasalista dominated the 1985 polls, where a voter turnout of 56.89 percent was recorded.


Emergence of Santugon, Tapat

Political parties Santugon and Tapat emerged in the University during the 1986 SC elections. For some, the political parties that dominated campus politics prior to Santugon and Tapat entering the scene were just election machinery.

Santugon was formed in 1985 when Ringo Morella, previously from Lakas Lasalista, and Mike Ang, then associate editor of The LaSallian, envisioned a student party that will not only run for elections but also move with guiding principles and long term programs to be followed throughout the years. What drove the original Santugon members to action was the common vision of having a “unified response to the call of times,” hence the name Santugon — from the words “nagkaisang tugon.

On the other hand, after the disbandment of PANUDLA, members of several student groups LSDP, Rotaract, Ang Pahayagang Plaridel, and Malate Literary Folio came together and formed Tapat, which stood for genuine student representation in the University. Carla Lopez, who ran for Vice President for Academics under Tapat’s banner in the 1986 SC Elections told The LaSallian during that year that Tapat is “an alliance that is united, driven by service, and guided by faith.”

 Two-wayparty system 2 - Lance Go []

The history of Santugon

“We have the same vision,” Santugon’s Morella explained in an interview with The LaSallian right before the 1986 SC elections. Santugon’s vision during that year was the transformation of the LaSallite into a true Filipino Christian born of faith and nationalism in the supreme effort towards nation building. Santugon was formed not to be classified as leftist, rightist, or centrist. It was founded to be representative of the values of the general student populace.

For the original Santugon of 1986, the student body needed a political party to call for the students in making a stand (“tugon”) on the various issues that they faced during those years. In order for such views to have an impact, they needed to make a unified stand (“iisang tugon”) in their responses to the challenge of the times (“sa tawag ng panahon”), anchored on the Lasallian values of Religio, Mores, and Cultura.

Two-way party system 1 - Lance Go []

The conception of Tapat

For Tapat’s original core, the alliance did not cater to only one political view but to a wide variety of other interests. However, the party committed itself to one common, unifying goal: to serve the students.

Tapat promoted the freedom of expression for students after coming from years of Marcos dictatorship. The original Tapat aimed to strike a balance between honing the student body’s role in being responsible stakeholders of the University and informed citizens of the country. Tapat shed light on different issues faced inside and outside campus during those years.


Thirty years hence

The first time Santugon and Tapat faced each other during the elections, Santugon won 30 out of 42 seats in the SC. However, Tapat emerged victorious in claiming the highest position, when Barry Ubarra, former member of PANUDLA and one of the founding members of Tapat, was declared SC President.

It has been 30 years since Santugon and Tapat entered the political scene in DLSU, but some election-related issues they faced in 1985 still persist within the University to this day. If the 2015 General Elections stirred much controversy after the disqualification of the entire Santugon slate and some of Tapat’s candidates and the non-fulfillment of the 50 percent plus one quota, the SC Elections of 1986 also resulted in vacancies in the SC due to multiple disqualifications of some candidates. To remedy the problem, the Commission on Elections then had lowered the quota to 25 percent plus one.

The six-member Executive Committee of the 1986 SC was composed of two officers hailing from Tapat and four from Santugon. The SC was remodeled to the USG in 2010, and in the six years of operation of the USG, the Executive Board (EB) has been composed of members coming from both Santugon and Tapat, except in 2010 where Tapat’s withdrawal of its entire slate resulted in a Santugon-filled USG. Independent candidates also entered the race in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

This year’s Special Elections resulted in a 3-1-1 ratio turnout in the EB, with three officers coming from Santugon, one from Tapat, and an independent candidate bagging the top position in the USG.

The two-party system in DLSU has indeed seen a lot of changes from the SC re-birth in the 80s to the creation and operation of the USG in recent years. The dichotomy between political parties remains visible, but ultimately both continue to exist with one goal: to serve the students.

When he was elected into office way back in 1986, Ubarra had one message to leave to the new officers of the student government: “Once you are elected, you leave your party. You forget partisanship. You work as one.”

Althea Gonzales

By Althea Gonzales

Blaise Cruz

By Blaise Cruz

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